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Monday, June 18, 2018

Early Summer

May and June are two of my favorite months in the Orchid Center. It's a photographer's paradise. Because we're inside a greenhouse, the 'golden hour' for photography, in which light assumes that uniquely warm and glowy quality, tends to occur only in certain corners at certain times of year when the early morning sun is unobstructed. Nevertheless, the light is almost always soft and diffuse and completely camera-ready.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Polycycnis muscifera

Some of our wonderful Polycycnis species are flowering this month. Polycycnis is a genus of Euglossine bee pollinated orchids in the Stanhopeinae native to Central and South America. The flowers are small and delicate with a graceful arching column (reminiscent of Cycnoches, with whom they share a name derived from the Latin root cycnis, meaning swan). All the Polycycnis species have labella that are to some degree hairy. I'm amazed that any insect would regard the extraordinary velcro lip of Polycycnis muscifera (above) an enticing landing platform. Those long hairs must act as a flag to attract the bee's attention to the landing field.

Like other Euglossine bee pollinated orchids, Polycycnis offers fragrance compounds as a reward to male Euglossine bees. The bee lands on the lip and starts scratching near the base in order to obtain the fragrance volatiles. The weight of the bee pulls the flower down. When the bee starts hovering to transfer the fragrance to his hind legs, the flower's sticky viscidium disc, which you can see above in profile projecting like a tab from the club-like column, attaches to the bee's thorax.

Polycycnis are not at all common in cultivation, so be sure to stop by and catch ours in flower!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Anguloa cliftonii

Anguloa cliftonii ABG 20162358
The most elegant Tulip Orchid in our collection is Anguloa cliftonii. The lovely curvature of the lateral sepals make it instantly recognizable. Just visible between the pale yellow sepals are two red-marbled petals that are a shade lighter in color.

Anguloa cliftonii ABG 20162358
Not only is it one of the loveliest anguloas, it's also one of the heftiest. A mature plant can produce a pair of leaves that are two feet long atop a five inch pseudobulb. As you can see, the new shoot on our plant gives promise of massive growth later in the season.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Orchid Daze 2018

Spring is in full swing in Atlanta and nowhere is that more evident than here at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, where Orchid Daze 2018 and Atlanta Blooms are running concurrently. If your life seems flower deficient, the remedy is right here!

Pansy Orchids and Moth Orchids in the Fuqua Conservatory Lobby

Pansy Orchid (Miltoniopsis)

Arches of  Dancing Lady Orchids (Odontocidium

The Orchid Atrium of the Fuqua Orchid Center

A towering display of orchids and carnivorous plants in the Orchid Atrium

Dtps. Surf Song 'Kumquat'

Nepenthes Ventrata (alata x ventricosa) on the vertical walls in the Orchid Atrium

Vanda hybrids on hanging geometric forms in the Orchid Display House

Come see Orchid Daze 2018! The show runs through April 8.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Hey, Who Turned My Peristeria Yellow?

This was a surprise. The sort of thing that happens in your dreams (especially if you are a plant breeder), but only rarely in real life: a novel color form in a batch of seedlings.

Last August, Ron Determann and I scooped up a handful of nearly identical, near-blooming-sized Peristeria guttata seedlings at Carter & Holmes. Peristerias other than elata are not common in the trade so I was delighted to add some fresh genetic stock to our two existing accessions of guttata.  Naturally, I expected them to be the typical color form, white with red spots. Pictured above is one of the siblings which flowered in January. About two weeks ago, I noticed that one of the others had unusually light colored buds.

Apart from this surprising event, it seems like the genus Peristeria is in need of some taxonomic work. In our own collection of Peristeria, we have at least one individual whose identity is suspect, but the literature on Peristeria is pretty thin. In the mean time, I've selfed our yellow accession (with some of the future offspring earmarked for Mac Holmes). My experience selfing our peristerias cautions me that we've got maybe a 50/50 chance of a successful outcome -Peristeria capsules resulting from selfings often abort part way through their development.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

What's New?

Stanhopea wardii ABG 19901441
Hello there! It's great to see you again. I hope you all are doing well. I took a bit of time off from blogging in order to heed the siren call of some other big projects here, but it's time for some new posts! There's been no shortage of activity here -a storm of repotting, renovation, propagation, a new seedling distribution program, two major displays, DNA barcoding -all exciting stuff, and more about that soon.

One of the most exciting developments of the last few months is that we have applied for and been recognized by the American Public Gardens Association as holders of Nationally Accredited Stanhopea and Gongora collections. This involved a whirlwind of prep work -inventorying, gathering statistics, writing, updating records, last minute repotting and greenhouse clean up - leading up to the all-important site review by my esteemed colleague Nick Snakenberg from Denver Botanic Garden. It was actually huge fun, but it's still a nail biter having your collections inspected.

Well, we passed muster and our Stanhopea and Gongora are now in the club of Nationally Accredited collections belonging to the Plant Collections Network. Woo hoo! Together they are one of just three nationally accredited greenhouse collections in the United States. They join Sarracenia, Acer and Magnolia as accredited collections at ABG. You can find the other nationally accredited collections at other public gardens here. It's great to see you again. Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for more posts!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Phalaenopsis hieroglyphica

One of my favorite Phalaenopsis is our magnificent hieroglyphica 'Orchidglade.' It's a stunner.
It's flowers are larger, the colors richer and the blooming season much longer -six months!- than our other hieroglyphicas, which flower September through November. 'Orchidglade' is a vigorous grower and quickly makes a stunning specimen-sized plant.
Phalaenopsis hieroglyphica is endemic to Luzon, Polillo, Palawan and Mindanao in the Philippines. When our plant isn't on display we grow it in our warm greenhouse. It likes the classic Phal conditions -warmth (70º-85º), shade (80%), year round moisture and high humidity (80-90%). The inflorescences are pendant, so we grow our plants in baskets.
But it's those glpyph-like markings on the petals and sepals that make the flowers so mesmerizing. And the pink Velcro lip. What a terrific plant this is! You can see it flowering now in the Orchid Display House.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Pollinating Lycomormium

It's been a good month for Lycomormium here. This species has been flowering for three weeks, jostling for attention among the fiskei baskets in the Orchid Display House. Since we haven't yet produced seedlings from any of our Lycomormium species, this month presented a terrific opportunity to get some capsules on our plants.

Unfortunately, Lycomormium is incredibly difficult to pollinate using pollinia fresh from the anther cap. The yellow pollinia are like twin balloons that resist being stuffed into the narrow opening of the stigmatic cavity. Darwin described the same problem pollinating Gongora in On the Various Contrivances by Which Orchids Are Fertilized by Insects. His solution was to let the pollinia dry for five hours, with the rationale that the pollinia attached to an insect would dry and shrink as the insect foraged.

So, taking my cue from Darwin, I removed the pollinarium with its sticky disk from the anther cap using a pencil, and then slapped it onto the surface of the dorsal sepal. No worries about it coming loose. Pollinaria have emerged intact on my clothing after a trip through the washer and dryer at home. The photo above was taken after two days of drying in the greenhouse. You can see that the yellow pollinia have deflated and become concave after dehydrating. Pollination was easy after that.

In other Stanhopeinae, like Gongora maculata, the stigmatic cavity doesn't open sufficiently until the day after the pollinia are removed (Dodson AOS Bulletin Vol. 31 No.8). Changes in the size and shape of the pollinia and stigmatic opening make it unlikely that the bee removing the pollinia from an orchid will also pollinate it, and are important mechanisms in preventing self pollination.

Though we've had this accession for a while, it has remained Lycomormium sp. in our database since it has floral characteristics of both schmidtii and squalidum. A number of possible explanations exist, but it seems more work needs to be done on this genus. On the subtribal level LycomormiumPeristeria and Coeliopsis have traditionally been placed in the Stanhopeinae, but more recently Whitten, Williams and Chase (2000) have grouped them together in the Coeliopsidinae based on molecular and morphological evidence.

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